The government has published its draft Media Bill that confirms plans to bring the streamers under new Ofcom rules, new rules to ensure the PSBs on-demand services are given prominence on smart TVs and also confirms plans for Channel 4 to be able to produce content in-house.
VoD viewers will now be able to formally complain to Ofcom, and the Bill will strengthen Ofcom’s duty to assess audience protection measures on VoDs such as age ratings and viewer guidance. Ofcom will have more robust powers to investigate and take action to enforce standards if they consider it appropriate, including issuing fines of up to £250,000 and “in the most serious and repeated cases – restricting a service’s availability in the UK.”
Channel 4 will also no longer be barred from producing its own content and will get a new legal duty to consider its long-term sustainability alongside the delivery of its public service remit, “which will ensure this globally renowned broadcaster can continue to produce high impact, distinctive shows long into the future.”
The PSBs will be given “greater flexibility” as to how they deliver on their public service obligations. Online programming will now count towards meeting their public service remit, not just on linear TV channels, as it stands today. Ofcom will get new powers to require PSBs to provide more of a particular type of programming if audiences are being underserved.
Major online TV platforms used by a significant number of UK viewers – such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks – will be legally required to carry and prominently feature designated PSB services, such as on-demand platforms like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All 4, My5, S4C’s Clic and STV Player. “This will help ensure distinctly British programming remains easy to find as viewing increasingly shifts online, and UK audiences can readily find the content they value when they turn on their TV.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Technology has revolutionised the way people enjoy TV and radio. The battle to attract and retain audiences has never been more fierce. British content and production is world leading but changes to viewing habits have put traditional broadcasters under unprecedented pressure.
“These new laws will level the playing field with global streaming giants, ensuring they meet the same high standards we expect from public service broadcasters and that services like iPlayer, All4 and ITVX are easy to find however you watch TV.
“Our Bill will give these brilliant broadcasters and our legendary radio industry the tools to keep doing what they do best – nurturing the creative talent and skills that fuel the UK’s booming production industry, whilst making outstanding shows that we can all enjoy.”
Dame Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive, ITV plc said: “We welcome the publication of the Media Bill today as a decisive staging post on the journey to a modern and flexible regulatory regime for TV and media in the UK. This Bill will modernise the framework for a Public Service Broadcasting system that is the cornerstone of the £116bn creative economy.
“The UK is a global leader in the creative industries and this legislation will help to maintain and strengthen that position. Given the profound and dynamic changes in the global media ecology the need is urgent and we would encourage the Government to ensure the Bill becomes law as soon as possible.”
Maria Kyriacou, Paramount Global’s President for Broadcast & Studios, International Markets, said: “We welcome the publication of the draft Media Bill. This is vitally important new legislation to ensure that prominence for Public Service Broadcasters is maintained in the age of the smart TV.
“We hope that Parliament supports and recognises the urgency of implementing this to underpin the health and vitality of our world-leading British broadcasting and creative sector – and protect it for the future.
“It’s particularly pleasing that Channel 5’s PSB licence has also been renewed, which is great recognition of the ongoing success of the channel and its important role in the public service ecology of the UK.
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